Creating A Performing Persona That Really Works For Your Show.
There are two basic ways to settle on a performing persona for your comedy magic show: This is mine!
There are those two basic ways to develop a performing persona for your comedy magic show:
1 Create a fictional and larger than life character and run your material through that lens or filter while performing. Be prepared to be two very different people onstage and offstage. A perfect example of this approach is the outrageous character that Jeff Hobson has created so successfully. Mac King establishes himself as a “hayseed” character and turns this misconception to his own advantage almost instantly. When I was growing up I used to marvel at the wild onstage antics of Ali Bongo, to meet the quiet and reserved gentleman behind the “Shriek of Araby” was quite a shock.
2 Take your own personality and enlarge it so that it assumes the vehicle for a stage-filling entertainer. This is the more common, and I would suggest easier route. If you meet Michael Finney offstage you are basically talking to much the same person you were enjoying onstage; he is just a little bit more so when onstage. Justin Willman and Michael Carbonaro are perfect examples of magicians who project their offstage personalities adapted perfectly to their performing environment. Many of the more exaggerated magical performers still fit into this category fairly easily; from Tommy Cooper to Amazing Johnathan the “what I am is what you get…” approach is clearly part of their appeal. This is what I have chosen to do with my approach to comedy.
Take a good long look in the mirror and view your videos before deciding if you are more suited to doing funny things or saying funny things. Maybe it is a combination of these two approaches that you should make your goal while you perform your magic. Do you plan on performing “situational comedy magic” where the nature of the magical elements in your show does the heavy lifting in getting your laughs? Do you plan to tell a stream of jokes that keeps the audience laughing while you are performing your magic show? At an early age I became a big fan of the late Billy McComb and the seamless way he combined really strong magic with traditional stand-up comedy and I personally chose this route and have never regretted it.
Once you have adapted your performing persona then you need to use that as the template to shape the rest of your personal style, such as costume and material. When you have established a good persona you are well advised to keep it as a solid and consistent one and it isn’t worth damaging the integrity of it just to accommodate a one off joke or trick. Look for something else that works just as well but allows you to remain in character. There is an unlimited amount of material out there to choose from and one of the weakest reasons to select something is because it works well in someone else’s act. It is a nice goal, but not particularly practical to have every element in your show 100% original, however, if you can integrate something into your work that is true to your character then it gives a holistic originality to the act in general.
Working with, and knowing, as many comedians as I do I am constantly bombarded with negativity about how “stock” most magicians’ material is. Sadly there is way too much too much truth in this opinion for me to defend our community too vigorously. Comedians usually work endlessly to update and perfect their comedy while comedy magicians are often more interested in adding a new trick. One easy solution to this is to make sure your persona is unique and not fall back on any stock smart ass magician stereotype.